When an instructor sets up an online learning experience there are some items that the instructor should take into consideration. For instance, to create an engaging online classroom environment the instructor should have a firm grasp on the various resources and technological tools that are available.
Imagine a carpenter who has no idea of what a drill is and the carpenter resorts to using a screwdriver or a hammer and various size nails to make holes for a chair that needs to be made. Sure, it can be done but it would not be very efficiently built. The same principle applies to online instructors. An instructor who does not know about the various tools that are available, which can facilitate the generation of prime and exciting course content, would be wasting time doing things the “old way”. Anyone using the wrong tools for the job would waste time and possibly frustrate others.
It is important that an instructor try to keep up to date on the various tools that become available as technology advances. Ok, here is a case in point. When was the last time you used a slide rule? Would you be willing to learn how to use it so that you can teach your students and have them use it throughout the semester? Probably not. That tool is not very efficient or as accurate as a calculator However, you might be willing to learn how to use it just for the sake of curiosity. New technology provides new ways of doing things and probably more efficiently than some of the old methods you currently know.
Another thing that an instructor needs to convey to the learners is what will be expected of them during the course. When a learner understands exactly what is expected, the learner will most likely be satisfied with the course and will probably contribute more to the community of learners. A well-organized instructor will provide clear and unambiguous guidelines to ensure that there will not be any misunderstandings in assignments, due dates, consequences or how things work. Therefore, it is always a good rule of thumb to lay the ground work during the first day of class.
Another very important topic that should considered in the preparation of an online course is the establishment of comradeship between the students. This can be done by creating ice-breakers that will involve the participation of the students whereby they all contribute, and continue to contribute, their experiences and personal stories (which they would not mind sharing). In this fashion, the students learn about each other and in the process they start to build a trusting environment where they can feel confident enough to share their ideas, thoughts and more personal stories. This is known as forming a community where students can openly discuss course requirements and content. Additionally, within these communities many learners have gone on to forge lasting friendships with their peers which has helped them in their personal and professional lives.
Therefore, do your students a favor… get them involved and they will think back, thank, and remember you.
Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.